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Franchise Spinoff Approaches

The purpose of this research is to provide analysis of the launches of spin-offs, prequels, and/or sequels surrounding popular movie and television franchises by investigating tactics and methods implemented at launch, providing data which points to the successful or unsuccessful nature of these tactics, as well as information regarding which networks, streaming platforms, or other services were employed. An analysis of ‘Fear the Walking Dead’, ‘The Mandalorian’, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, and ‘Better Call Saul’ is presented below.

THE WALKING DEAD / FEAR THE WALKING DEAD

  • In March 2015, AMC announced that a spin-off had been given a green light for an initial two season run on the heels of the popularity of (and as a companion to) ‘The Walking Dead’. At the time, ‘The Walking Dead’ was, at the time, the top rated show on television among adults 18-49 for the previous three seasons.
  • On March 27, series creator, Robert Kirkman, tweeted that the show was to be called ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ (FTWD).

Kirkman - Fear The Walking Dead

  • On the same day, it was announced that the first trailer for the new show would premiere following the (at the time) upcoming Season 5 finale of ‘The Walking Dead’.
  • One of the first blog posts on the official AMC site to promote ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ was a short video series which was described as “Thousands of calls for help flood the airwaves. Most will go unanswered, but not all will go unheard. Listen in to hear what people are broadcasting over the air as society breaks down.” This short series would give audiences a glimpse into what life was like prior to the events in ‘The Walking Dead’ as society began to breakdown with the onslaught of the zombie virus.
  • Hulu won the streaming rights for ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ and other new AMC shows. The deal did not include any previously released AMC properties.
  • Vivendi’s CanalPlus won the French rights to air ‘FTWD’. The series premiere would air simultaneously with the US airing and subsequent episodes would air on Tuesdays after the Sunday US airing.
  • A panel featuring the cast and executive producers of the new show was scheduled and presented at the 2015 Comic-Con in San Diego. Art promoting the show was released on posters.
  • An immersive experience activation was hosted by AMC during Comic-Con at an off-site location. The activation gave fans a chance to see a recreation of the opening scene, attend autograph sessions, and even a pancake breakfast.
  • The first official Season 1 trailer was released at Comic-Con.
  • Throughout the summer AMC released video and still footage from the set of ‘FTWD’.
  • A media blitz ensued through July which included (in part) features in Variety, the New York Post, Tech Times, and on Entertainment Tonight.
  • Ahead of the show’s premiere episode, AMC launched an interactive feature for fans, called Fear the Walking Dead Story Sync. “This live, interactive experience immerses you in the world of the show and lets you interact with the action on-screen during ‘Fear the Walking Dead’’s premiere broadcast on AMC. Think you know what it takes to survive the end of the world? Story Sync will weigh your interactions and, at the end of each episode, tell you which character you’re most like and whether you would have survived the episode. You can also rate other characters’ survivability via the Apocalypse Preparedness Meter, and weigh in on what you’d do if you were in their shoes. Curious how the world fell apart while Rick was in his coma? Check out Story Sync’s documents that track society’s collapse step-by-step. Then tally up the milestones at the end of each episode with Story Sync’s Road to the Apocalypse feature.”
  • Using the hashtag #SpreadTheFear allowed fans to submit a photo of themselves which could be tweeted back with the addition of a ‘newly infected’ photoshopped in.
  • AMC partnered with T-Mobile and Shazaam during the premiere episode of “FTWD’ to offer bonus content during the airing. The same type of bonus content was promoted during the Season 1 finale as well.
  • When ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ premiered on August 23, 2015, it became the most ever viewed episode of a scripted television series with over 10.1 million viewers (6.3 million in the coveted 18-49 demographic).

Fear The Walking Dead

  • Immediately preceding the premiere episode, AMC aired a ‘Talking Dead’ preview of Season 6 of ‘The Walking Dead’ which had 4.2 million viewers.
  • Throughout the first season’s airings, AMC continued to post weekly content featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
  • Near the end of the first season, AMC launched a web-companion series called ‘Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462‘. The mini companion was designed to introduce new characters to the universe.
  • AMC launched a contest on Twitter to promote the first season’s finale in which winners would receive merchandise.
  • Ratings for the show have declined since the first season. Season 1 garnered an average of 7.61 million viewers per episode, Season 2 averaged 4.19 million viewers per episode, Season 3 saw 2.36 million per episode, Season 4 ratings averaged 2.27 million viewers per episode, and Season 5 ended with about 1.51 million viewers per episode. It should be noted that these are US ratings and only indicate ‘live-plus 3’ ratings which factor in live viewings as well as VOD and DVR viewing within three days after initial telecast. These ratings give no indication of the lasting popularity on streaming platforms in the US and globally.

STAR WARS / THE MANDALORIAN

  • Lucasfilm announced on October 4, 2018, that production on its first live-action streaming show had begun and would be called ‘The Mandalorian’. In addition to a first glimpse of the filming, the official release names directors and executive producers. “The series will be written and executive produced by Emmy-nominated producer and actor Jon Favreau, as previously announced, with Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels) directing the first episode. Additional episodic directors include Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates), and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok). It will be executive produced by Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Kathleen Kennedy, and Colin Wilson. Karen Gilchrist will serve as co-executive producer. “

The Madalorian First Look

  • Disney released the name of its planned streaming service, Disney+, on November 8, 2018.
  • November 2018 also saw Disney make another Star Wars announcement which stated, “it is developing a second live-action Star Wars show for its upcoming, newly named streaming video platform, Disney+, with actor Diego Luna reprising the role of Rebel Alliance spy Cassian Andor.
  • Pedro Pascal (formerly of ‘Game of Thrones’) was named as the title character in December 2018.
  • A panel discussing the upcoming show was announced for the Star Wars Celebration event in Chicago. The panel featured a partial trailer — but it was not released to the public.
  • Plans for ‘The Mandalorian’ had reverberating impacts in the Star Wars universe. A “standalone Boba Fett film (was) stopped in favor of Jon Favreau’s live-action Star Wars show ‘The Mandalorian’, while Disney CEO Bob Iger said that fans should expect a “slowdown” when it comes to the pace of Star Wars films. But while they’ve pushed pause on certain films, it seems as though their television efforts are still moving forward.”
  • The first official trailer for the show premiered at the D23 Expo in August 2019. The trailer also announced the premier date, November 12. Unfortunately, internet archives were unable to verify the amount of views the trailer had amassed ahead of the premiere episode, but currently the trailer has a total of 22,570,086 views on YouTube.
  • The second official trailer debuted on October 28, 2019. Currently the trailer has 15,503,684 views on YouTube.
  • The official Instagram account (914,000 followers) for the show made its first post on August 23, 2019. The first post had over 24,000 likes.
  • Countdown posts (with video) to the show were posted on the Instagram account at the one-month, two-week, one-week, and one-day marks in addition to other posts showing images from the show.
  • The “special look” video post (from 11/11/19) was viewed 87,494 times.
  • The “streaming now” post on 11/12/19 was viewed 76,650 times.
  • “For the prior seven days ending December 1, The Mandalorian was 31.9 times more in-demand than the average title on a global basis, good enough for number one in the world, according to data provided to Observer by research firm Parrot Analytics.”

The Madalorian Ratings

  • After airing just four of its weekly rolled-out episodes, “the show (has) enjoyed a sustained upward trajectory thus far through its run. Buzz is capital in the streaming wars and the pop culture conversation continues to get louder with each passing Baby Yoda meme.”
  • One very specific character, and secrecy surrounding him in the Start Ward universe, helped to continue gathering viewers after the premiere. Though known officially as ‘The Child’, ‘Baby Yoda’ sparked a social media frenzy.
  • Though the average article about ‘The Mandalorian’ received 1,671 social media interactions in November 2019, ‘Baby Yoda’ saw 2.28 million social media interactions in his first month.
  • Because of secrecy surrounding the show and its characters, the 2019 holiday season saw only limited ‘Baby Yoda’ merchandise for sale. The Wrap reported that Disney likely lost out on about “about $2.7 million in revenue because of the lack of ‘Baby Yoda’ products.”
  • The Wrap’s report also states that “Amazon customers searched for ‘Baby Yoda’ products 90,000 times from November to December, while ‘The Mandalorian’ received 126,000 searches.”
  • January 2020 saw US Twitter users hashtagging #babyyoda between 100 and 300 times per hour.
  • Disney announced the availability of some ‘Baby Yoda’ merchandise within their online stores in January 2020. Since then, a variety of brands have released exclusive merchandise from the show. Some of those include: Lego, Funko, Hot Topic, and Target.
  • Books, games, and products inspired by ‘The Child’ continue to be available at shopDisney.com, Disney Parks, and a variety of major retailers.
  • Currently the show has a 93% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is available exclusively on Disney+.
  • Season 2 of the show was announced on February 5, 2020, and is set to premiere on October 30.

HARRY POTTER / FANTASTIC BEASTS

  • On October 15, 2014, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara announced a Harry Potter spin-off trilogy of films based on the fictional book (within a book), ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’.
  • It was announced that the first of the three, which had been previously announced would premiere on November 18, 2016, with the following premiere two years after, respectively.
  • Warner Bros. had previously set the November release date for the initial film and slated it for premiere five days before a Star Wars property and a couple of week’s after the anticipated ‘Trolls’ from Fox. This scheduling is likely due, in part, to Warner Bros. hoping for a blockbuster after a lackluster 2015 season.
  • Author JK Rowling stated that the film would not be a prequel or a sequel but rather “an extension of the wizarding world.”
  • The first official trailer for the film premiered on December 15, 2015.
  • In April 2016, Scholastic, “the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, announced that it would publish the screenplay of the film ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ in the United States and Canada.”
  • Additional scenes were previewed at the 2016 Comic-Con in San Diego. Additional fan event surrounding the movie were scheduled during this worldwide event.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Comic Con

  • Test screenings of the film heralded the film. Some of the comments, post-viewing, included: “It is more adult-oriented and interesting to see how adult wizards exist and live in society. That said, this may also be the funniest movie of all the Wizarding World films. The humor worked for the most part and the audience really enjoyed most of the jokes. There may have even been some hidden adult jokes. “; “The Wizarding World in the USA is much stricter and scarier than Britain’s Wizarding World. “; “Beasts will not disappoint, but they do not steal the show. “; “It was HIGHLY recommended that viewers know the Wizarding World laws and magical nuances before seeing this film. Muggles (sorry…No-Maj’s) will not get any explanations to the magical world. “; “Newt is fighting a good fight, which makes the fans appreciate the magical beasts. “; and “Finally, our team was not disappointed and said the fans should look forward to a fantastic new film this fall.”
  • The final official trailer was released in September 2016. Currently the trailer has a total of 14,002,505 views (likely most occurring before the film’s release).
  • Pre-release, the film had an official website as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. Archived data on numbers of followers was not available, though currently the profile has 1.4 million followers.
  • Typical pre-release film media included media junkets and mass appeal press articles.
  • Full budget for the film (including marketing) was reported to be $180 million.
  • With regard to the overall marketing for the film, Warner Bros. Marketing and Distribution President, sue Kroll, stated, “we fashioned a campaign to resonate with at passionate fan base, introducing them [to Rowling’s] completely new story and new characters while bringing along a new, uninitiated audience to Fantastic Beasts.”
  • The Hollywood Reporter reported in 2016 that “so far, Potterheads have been willing to embrace an expanded universe. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park attractions in Los Angeles, Orlando and Japan have been a massive boost for Universal Parks and Resorts, which has a licensing deal with Warner. A West End play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is sold out through 2017, while Rowling’s tie-in book of the same name is the top seller of the year. By most accounts, the Harry Potter empire is worth north of $25 billion.”
  • “Warner Brothers turned the film into a “cultural destination” by partnering with Facebook Live, Twitter’s customized emojis and Amazon to use its search bar to launch bespoke Fantastic Beasts content, they have also been one of the first to commission an experience for Google’s new Daydream VR headset.”
  • Opening weekend grosses totaled $74,403,387 (in 4,144 theaters) and total grosses for the first film in the trilogy were $814,037,575 globally.
  • In 2016, “NBCUniversal acquired the exclusive broadcast rights to the Wizarding World property from Warner Bros. At the time, the agreement was considered to be one of the biggest film franchise rights agreements of all time. Although it meant viewers could now enjoy series on Syfy and USA Network, it also meant WarnerMedia’s eventual streaming service (which became HBO Max) was likely to miss out on housing the content.”
  • However, in recent weeks, when HBO Max debuted, all eight original Harry Potter movies and ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ were included on the streaming service. No details surround the streaming future of the spin-off’s second movie, ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ at this time.

BREAKING BAD / BETTER CALL SAUL

Saul Goodman, Esquire

  • July 2014 saw the announcement of additional cast members for ‘Better Call Saul’ as well as the release of some still photos from the set. A later premiere date (from the initially announced November) was confirmed, but not released.
  • Fans were treated to glimpse of the show when “a billboard for the series was erected in Albuquerque in July for filming purposes. The sign featured a phone number, which when dialed, played a message from Goodman’s law office. “
  • During an August marathon airing of ‘Breaking Bad’, AMC released a 10-second teaser trailer for ‘Better Call Saul’ along with the premiere date set for February 2015.
  • A second teaser trailer was released on September 23, 2014.
  • In November 2014, it was revealed that “‘Better Call Saul’ (would) premiere with a two-night special in America, starting on Sunday, February 8 and completing on Monday, February 9, with both episodes airing at 10pm EST and PST. The show’s regular slot from then on will be on Monday nights at 10pm.”
  • January 2015 saw the release of an extended trailer for the show by AMC. By the end of January 2014, the trailer had almost 799,000 views. Currently the trailer has 1,409,413 total views.
  • January and February saw the publication of many industry reviews of the show. Tim Goodman, of the Hollywood Reporter, surmises overall, “that brings us back to the audience and this intriguing experiment. What’s arguably unheard of with ‘Better Call Saul’ is that it’s a spin-off from one of the greatest dramas in TV history, a feat not attempted by ‘The Sopranos’, ‘The Wire’, or (at this point) ‘Mad Men’. That’s a risk that’s fascinating and bold. Whether it’s one that’s worth watching will settled in the weeks and months (and maybe years) ahead.” Comparing the show to its predecessor, Ben Leuner states, “‘Better Call Saul’ is smaller a show, in some ways, about a smaller man with a different sort of desperate ambition. While Saul might never have had the lofty scientific ambitions of a man like Walt, he possesses his own kind of brilliance, albeit one soaked in flop sweat and wearing far cheaper clothes.”
  • A press release immediately after the premiere provided early data. “The February 8 premiere of AMC’s hotly anticipated ‘Breaking Bad’ prequel, ‘Better Call Saul’ was the biggest series premiere in cable history, attracting 4.4 million viewers ages 18 to 49 and 4 million viewers ages 25 to 54.”
  • “In addition, according to social analytics firm Topsy, the hashtag #BetterCallSaul generated more than 60,000 tweets in the 24-hour period from February 8 to 9, which is when the second episode aired on AMC.”
  • The premiere episode featured the title character working as a manager in a Cinnabon store. In response, the Cinnabon chain offered “a free “Mini-Bon” to each customer who drops by a location between 5 and 9 p.m. local time” during the show’s second night premiere.
  • According to Linkedex, other brands wanted to capitalize on the show’s success. “Consumer excitement surrounding AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad’ prequel ‘Better Call Saul’ hasn’t gone unnoticed. Brands with legit ties to the series, such as those with cameos in the pilot, and brands with no ties to the series whatsoever tried to capitalize on the #BetterCallSaul hashtag during the two-night premiere.”
  • Drambuie tweeted to their followers after the show aired. Of note, however, the tweet only received a “handful of retweeets.”

Drambuie #bettercallsaul

  • Maker’s Mark got into the game as well.

Maker's Mark #bettercallsaul

Mercedes Benz #bettercallsaul

  • AMC made plans for an after-show, called ‘Talking Saul’. The show premiered during the second season of ‘Better Call Saul’.
  • Five years after the premiere, ‘Better Call Saul’ still holds a 96% positive audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Ratings however, have not held steady. The first season’s average viewership (not factoring in the premiere episode) was 2.805 million per episode. Season 2 had an average 2.158 million viewers per episode, Season 3 had an average of 1.643 million viewers per episode, Season 4 saw an average of 1.489 million per episode, and Season 5 averaged 1.373 million viewers per episode. It should be noted that these are initial airing ratings in the US only, this data does not factor in any streaming views of the show as Netflix does not release this data.
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